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Theory behind incredibly rare sighting 300m off famous Aussie beach

An extremely rare occurrence has been filmed near one Australia’s most popular tourist sites. A 1.8-meter great white was discovered hooked just 300m from Sydney’s Bondi Beach on Monday.

On the same day, a second strange occurrence was documented. The suburb’s resident seal, Alex, swam out of the ocean and took up temporary residence on the sand. Many locals have theorized the two events could be connected.

“Now I know why Alex the seal swam onto land,” one local wrote after seeing video of the shark online. “The modern day shark alarm: when a seal is on land – Everyone swim to land y’all,” another quipped.

While linking the two events is speculative, Humane Society International marine biologist Lawrence Chlebeck told Yahoo News it’s “definitely conceivable” that Alex fled the water to avoid a shark.

“A seal’s behavior is very much dictated by predators in the area. They have very keen senses of smell and taste and are definitely better at detecting whether sharks are in the area than we are,” he said.

“There’s no way to tell for sure, but it’s definitely conceivable.”

Bondi’s human population only became aware of the shark’s presence after drone footage was uploaded to social media.

While the apex predators are known to inhibit waters further out to sea, it’s rare to spot them so close to Bondi Beach where the ocean floor is sandy and there is a lack of fish. Although local man Jason Iggleton surveys the suburb’s waters most mornings, it’s the first time he has seen one since 2019.

“I’m assuming great whites are out there. They’re just not seen. Maybe it was a really hungry little shark and it took the bait,” he told Yahoo News.

Related: Does being the furthest out to sea increase your risk of a shark attack?

Bondi’s resident seal Alex was spotted on the boardwalk on Monday. Source: Supplied

The great white shark was released by fisheries contractors off Bondi Beach. Source: DroneSharkApp

Iggleton’s video shows the shark being released from a drum line which had hooked it near Mark’s Park on the southern end of Bondi Beach. Two men can be seen tethering the shark to the side of the boat and then setting it free.

The juvenile shark is visible for just seconds before it disappears under the cloudy waters. Great whites are known to swim long distances, and Iggleton believes it could have now deserted the area.

Drum lines are baited with meat that’s designed to catch sharks venting close to shore. But some believe rather than keep the beaches safe, they could actually lure them closer to shore.

In the case of this great white shark, Iggleton believes it could also have been lured by a sudden influx of wild salmon spotted nearby.

The population of great whites along Australia’s east coast and across to New Zealand is thought to number just 750 adults, according to the CSIRO.

Much is still to be learned about the species. Larger numbers of great whites do not equal to more attacks on humans.

In Florida, Australia and South Africa attacks occur on beaches where numbers are lower. But in California, surfers often swim alongside them without getting bitten, and that’s something he’s seen repeated on the NSW South Coast.

“I see a few whites down there and sharks go straight past surfers,” Iggleton claimed.

“I’ve seen a surfer fall off the wave and almost land on top of one. The shark just darted away. Some of the smaller ones can be quite shy.

“It’s the bigger one in deeper water you’ve got to worry about. But then the smaller ones are known to take a test bite out of a swimmer, and that can be fatal.”

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